Fiestas and a Hard Lesson (For Me)

Disclaimer: I try not to get too mopey or negative in my blog posts, but this post veers into that territory.

If there is one thing that I find the most comforting about teaching, it’s that every day is a blank slate. Whether I see kids once a week or I see them on two consecutive days, the mood rarely carries over. This is very fortunate when it’s been a bad day, because the kids come in the next day and it’s almost as if the bad mood of the previous day didn’t happen. They remember it, of course, but it doesn’t color their mood on the second day.

The realization that hit me really hard this week is that what happens after the bad days also happens after the good days…

So here’s what happened: I had a perfect fiesta storm this week with 4 fiestas in one day! The fiestas were so engaging and fun: we played musical chairs with a playlist of 50 Latin Classics on Spotify, we played language games like Password and Telephone, and we ended the parties with a free dance and social time. The kids loved it. They were engaged in the activities and using Spanish.

But then came the next day…

I had high expectations because I was seeing a lot of the same classes again. In my mind, we were going to have a class that was just as engaging and fun as the fiesta itself. But it was just another normal day, none of the extra fun from fiesta day extended into the next day…it was just a regular day with a regular mood.

Nothing really bad happened, but none the joyful and playful mood from the previous day carried over. I was expecting it to, but it didn’t. The kids completed their tasks and activities just as they would if they hadn’t had a fiesta the previous day. I was so sure that they would be more engaged and happy than normal. I was sure they would be perfect little children in thanks to their benevolent teacher…

But that’s not how it worked out: that’s not how teaching works and that’s not how human beings work. They were thankful for their party, but after reflection about why they weren’t acting the way I was expecting them to, I realized it was my expectations that were out of whack, not their mood or behavior. I realized that they don’t owe me anything: They earned their parties based on the system we have in place and they’ll earn the next ones based on those same terms. They won’t change their whole attitude towards my class based on one class party. It’s arrogant of me to think they would.

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on class parties, though. It means that I’m giving up on unreasonable expectations. What I’ve learned is that I need to approach every new day as exactly that: A new day. Not every day can be fiesta day. Not every day will be perfect and one great day does not automatically guarantee another. I can’t be complacent and expect the classes to go perfectly just because I think they will. Sometimes the least perfect days come after the most perfect days (and sometimes it’s vice versa). Today is different from yesterday and tomorrow will be different again.

I can’t try and make lightning strike twice in a row and I definitely can’t expect it to happen just because of the fun things we have done in previous days. I have to be here for my students and take them as they come every day.

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